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Predictions, position battles & players to watch in Nebraska football spring game

The Nebraska football spring game is on Saturday and here are some position battles and players to watch, plus predictions.



Nebraska football
Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports

The wait for the 2024 Nebraska football spring game is nearly over. The Huskers will take the field on Saturday at 11 AM CST for what Matt Rhule said will be actual “football.”

There are some things that won’t be live. He said that about the special teams stuff. I’m not sure if there will be living hitting on the quarterbacks but he talked about how he needed to see if they could throw the ball, if the receivers can catch it, and if the pass rush can get home.

You only get better at football by playing football. I love that Matt Rhule gets that. You can’t be scared and these weird games other schools are playing are a waste of time.

Nebraska football is going to be smart. We shouldn’t see Ty Robinson and Nash Hutmacher very often. We don’t need to see what Isaac Gifford or Malcolm Hartzog or Tommi Hill can do. This should be for the young guys trying to earn their spot on the depth chart.

So, what positions and players should you be watching in the Nebraska football spring game? First, let’s tackle the position battles before talking about players to watch and offering up predictions.

Position battles to watch in the spring game

  • Quarterback: This is a no-brainer. Dylan Raiola feels like QB1 coming out of the spring but he can solidify that even more on Saturday. If spring ball was class or prep time, Saturday’s spring game is the test. It’s the first exam and we’ll see if the Nebraska quarterbacks pass. All eyes will be on Raiola and Daniel Kaelin, but I also want to see how much Heinrich Haarberg has improved. Rhule made it out like he wanted to test the quarterbacks and I can’t wait to see the competition playing out in real time.
  • Running back: Outside of quarterback, I’m most interested in the backs. Dante Dowdell hasn’t emerged as quickly as I expected but that doesn’t mean he won’t be the starter. Emmett Johnson is doing his best to keep that spot though and it feels like if there was a real game on Saturday, he would be RB1. Will that still be the feeling after the spring game? We shall see.
  • Linebacker: The Huskers brought in Stefon Thompson but they also have John Bullock, Mikai Graybor, Javin Wright, and also Vincent Shavers, a freshman who has impressed this spring. MJ Sherman and Chief Borders are listed as linebackers instead of JACK’s. The same can be said for Princewill Umanmielen, so I’m wondering how all those guys are utilized. But Nebraska football has a bunch of talented linebackers between all three positions and I’ll be watching closely to see how that shakes out.
  • Cornerback: Ethan Nation, Blye Hill, and Dwight Bootle seem to have the inside track starting opposite Tommi Hill. It’s the ideal scenario because it allows Hartzog to be a hybrid defender who can play mostly in the slot. Blye Hill was singled out by Matt Rhule this week, but don’t rule out some of the youngsters, especially Nation.
  • O-Line: There are some battles at guard. The center and tackle spots are set. Turner Corcoran could come back this fall and compete at guard but Henry Lutovsky has emerged along with Justin Evan-Jenkins and transfer Micah Mazzccua is also in the mix.

Nebraska football players to watch

  • Dylan Raiola and Daniel Kaelin are two players every Nebraska football fan wants to see. They are the future of the program and this will be our first extended look.
  • Jacory Barney is another dude I can’t wait to see. But I’m also excited to watch Jahmal Banks and Isaiah Neyor. They sound like the real deal, plus I’m hoping Demitrius Bell can play. He’s missed some practice time but overall, the wide receiver position is one to watch. It’s as deep as it’s been in a long time, maybe ever at Nebraska.
  • I can’t wait to see Vincent Shavers with my own eyes. It’s hard to get a read on defense players through practice highlights.
  • I’ll also be keeping a close eye on second-year defenders such as Cameron Lenhardt, Umanmielen, and Riley Van Poppel. I want to see if they have taken the second-year leap.

Nebraska football spring game predictions (rapid fire)

  • Dylan Raiola will wow Nebraska football fans. There won’t be any doubt about the 2024 starting quarterback after Saturday (not that there is).
  • Emmett Johnson will be the best running back. I expect at least one explosive run.
  • We are going to see plenty of explosive plays in the passing game. I see as many 4-5 different players catching a pass for 20 yards or more.
  • Tristan Alvano will be money.
  • Nebraska football fans will be impressed with the trenches on both sides of the ball.
  • The speed of this team, on both sides of the ball, will surprise Nebraska fans. This program is a hell of a lot different than before Matt Rhule took over.
  • That’s a good thing and finally, we are going to see a real, physical football game. I can’t wait.

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Chris has worked in sports journalism since 2005 writing for multiple newspapers and websites such as the Bleacher Report and Fansided before starting Husker Big Red, A fan site for hardcore followers of the #Huskers offering articles, podcasts, videos and more exclusive content on all things Nebraska